The city of Samarkand, in Uzbekistan, this year hosted the 4th International Conference on Food Security. In this edition of Focus, we’ll be talking to the organisers and to the experts in attendance to hear what we can do to feed the world.
In 2022, it was estimated that 735 million people on the planet faced hunger, and a lack of access to healthy diets, and this remains an unsolved global problem.
Those in attendance at the 4th International Conference on Food Security urged for joint action to bring food security to all the people of the world.
The conference was organised by Uzbekistan with the support of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and attended by the agriculture ministers of many countries, as well as leading food security experts.
One of the main questions needing to be addressed at this year’s conference was just how realistic is it to achieve the second UN Sustainable Development goal of reaching zero hunger by 2030?
Corinna Hawkes, is Director of Food Systems and Food Safety Division.
“It does look unfortunately at this point in time that we will not achieve the SDG2, that is what the data is telling us. What’s urgently needed is cooperation. We have food systems that are not delivering food security. To fix issues related to the economy, the environment, health, or social problems that are part of food systems we need to have the people who are working on those issues talk to each other and to cooperate.”
Threats to Global Food Security
There are many threats to global food security ranging from armed conflicts, supply chain disruption, poverty, and climate change. All of which have combined to produce an increase in the number of people who do not have enough to eat.
In fact since 2019 over 122 million more people face hunger due to conflicts, pandemics, and repeated weather shocks.
Yerlan Baidaulet, is the Director General, Islamic Organization for Food Security.
“The reason for the current drastic food insecurity in countries like Afghanistan and Yemen, is climate change and social and economic instability. We discussed global partnership. That is the main solution for us – to bring resources, people and scientific methods on the ground”.
The Samarkand Declaration adopted at the conference states that by 2030, an estimated 670 million people will still be hungry according to the current projections.
Ali Abusabaa, is the Director General at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.
“You have the question of accessibility to food and affordability; it's very important to look at ways to enhance farmers income and others living in rural areas, through the diversification of livelihoods and to create opportunities.”
New technologies, and innovations in science could play a key role in the transformation of agri-food systems, which is one of the pillars of food security.
Vincent Martin, is Director of the Office of Innovation,
“It is very important to connect this strategic thinking on innovation technology and science and bring it down to the community level to make sure that they have access to that, and one of the big gaps we are seeing is that the people that most need these innovations are the ones that don’t have access to it; there is a gap of access, gap of information and we need to close this gap”.
The Problem of Water Resources
Food security is among the top priorities for Uzbekistan, a double landlocked country, that faces a variety of climate change challenges.
The question of water resources is one of the most challenging for countries in Central Asia. The strategy being adopted by Uzbekistan is to reduce water consumption in agriculture by implementing water-saving modern technologies.
Aziz Voitov, is the Minister of Agriculture, in Uzbekistan.
“Together with our neighbours, we are already working in this direction, not only on saving water resources; we talked with our neighbouring partners about the joint efficient use of land and the production of goods, and so together, we can work effectively in the direction of food security.”
In the Jomboy district of Uzbekistan, there is an innovative agricultural complex that's directly related to the country’s food security strategy. This $2.6 million complex is one of the thousands of beneficiaries of the government’s vast Horticulture Development Project, supported by the World Bank and the EU.
The Development of Clonal Rootstocks
At the InVitro laboratories, clonal rootstocks of various fruit trees are being grown and the scientists there claim that these rootstocks are resistant to climate change and disease.
Daler Subkhanov, is the General Manager, of Bogbon Agricultural Complex.
“Our rootstock can survive in the salinity of soil and water shortages. You can just get it and plant it in any soil.”
Soil samples from various regions of the country are also being analysed in the laborator. Farmers are then able to purchase the rootstocks that will grow best on their land.
Saberjan Akramov, is a farmer, and believes these could be beneficial.
“The advantage of these rootstocks is that they are free of viruses and fungi, the rootstocks of these seedlings are suitable specifically for the local soil and this guarantees a good harvest.”
The message coming oout of the conference in Samarkand seems clear, if we are to tackle this huge global problem, nations must work together to bring about its end.